Congratulations! In the face of sneering from the press and vicious attacks by the likes of Tony Blair, you’ve succeeded in being elected as leader of the Labour Party. Since Blair’s election in 1994, the Party’s aims and values have been warped and broken away from the old fashioned socialist values on which the Party was founded in 1900 – most heinously, the alteration of Clause IV in the Labour Party constitution in 1995 from a commitment to socialism to a commitment to neoliberalism.
From the Labour Party’s election in 1997 to the 2010 election in which it lost its 13-year streak in government to the Tories, it was apparent that the Labour Party had changed. Apparent endorsement by certain elements in the party of US imperialism supported by any means necessary seemed to represent a break with the Party’s old-style socialist values. Gone were the days in which the Labour Party promoted nationalisation of industry, the security of the working class the fruits of their labour, and the equitable distribution of the wealth. The Labour Party had become a shadow of its former self – the Conservative Party dressed up in red roses and claims of social democracy.
In 2010, Ed Miliband became the party leader, representing hope for the Labour Party. The son of a Marxist critic, Miliband, too, was criticised as hard-left. He was attacked in the press. He stuck by his values as best he could. He wasn’t perfect. He wouldn’t hear a case for Scottish independence. He worked hard to secure a “No” in the Scottish referendum. But he was a leader with personality, and a leader that represented the possibility of a return for the Labour Party, of a return to old values.
And yet, in the election just gone, I voted Green. I felt that the Labour Party didn’t represent my values. I wasn’t convinced that the Party could adequately represent my views. The Green Party weren’t a perfect fit, but I found them to be the closest thing I could find to a replacement for Old Labour values that I could envision as electable. Of course, we know how the last election turned out. It was disappointing. I really was rooting for my party, the Greens, and Labour, and they got absolutely slaughtered. It was a wake-up call I’ll never forget that morning, watching with growing despair as the Tories slowly slithered their way into a majority: I and so many others like me spent so much time living in my left-wing bubble, I really didn’t think that more needed to be done to convince the undecided to vote towards the Left. I was wrong. Many of my Labour-supporting friends expressed anger at me and other Green voters for not voting Labour, but how could we when the Party was so far from our values?
Now the Party is under your leadership. I first read about you in the Independent on Sunday a few months ago. The fact you have been elected as Labour Party leader indicates a return to the Party’s traditional policies, a return to the party’s traditional aims and goals. You are currently in a position where you are one of the most controversial men in the history of the Labour Party, if not UK politics. Your critics accuse you of being “hard left” as though you were suggesting the Channel Islands be converted into gulags. The papers call you divisive, far-left, radical left, Marx-lover. You and your supporters know that your “hard left” approach actually means that you believe in values At present you stand in a precarious position. The right-wing bought mass media is looking for something, anything that can be used to attack you.
So here’s my advice, Mr. Corbyn: Don’t fuck it up.
Throughout your campaign for Labour leadership, you showed humility and restraint. You told your supporters not to attack or insult others. Even in your speech upon being elected you thanked and complimented your opponents, congratulating them. You have thus far proven yourself a trustworthy politician, and that’s not a lightly applied label.
After off-handedly suggesting women’s-only train carriages, people seized upon it, calling you sexist, out of your mind. I know you mean well with ideas like these, but you need to carefully consider them. You need to choose your words wisely. I remember the Green Party transport spokesman, Rupert Read, gaffed by revealing his shocking lack of knowledge and unwillingness to learn about transgender issues after being called on his use of the word “moron”, which is an ableist insult. You and your party need to foster a policy of listening to people when they tell you what you’re doing is wrong. You need to be prepared to listen. You’ve already shown your willingness to have conversations with women on the topic of sexism and on the culture of sexual violence against women.
You need to be prepared to speak to people if you want to represent the people. Don’t be Blair. Don’t embrace capitalism and neo-liberalism. You are following in the footsteps of such men as Tony Benn and Aneurin Bevan. It would be extremely easy for you now to go back on everything you’ve said, and become soft. This is not the way to be. You have to stay hard, against the bullying press, against critics, and you have to stay fair, to everyone – to every person. There are hundreds of people who are far less privileged than you and I living in the UK. They face racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and ableism every day. Will you be the one to listen? Will you be the one to promote change? I sincerely hope so.
I am excited by your election to the Labour leadership – I believe that if you get it right, and you sell your ideas well enough to the public, the future could well be bright. But only if you’re willing to put the work in, step outside your bubble, and liaise with the general public, something many politicians on both ends of the spectrum consistently fail to do.
Don’t fuck it up.
A cautiously optimistic left winger.